Two receptors for cholecystokinin (CCK) have been isolated which also bind gastrin: CCK-A type and CCK-B type, both are coupled to phospholipase C (PLC) activation. However, identification of the "true" gastrin receptor remains controversial. We determined which CCK receptor mediated the trophic effect of gastrin on human colon cancer cells (LoVo). LoVo cells lack mRNA for either CCK receptor by Northern hybridization. Gastrin stimulated cyclic AMP production, not PLC activity, in LoVo cells. The trophic effect was not blocked by receptor antagonists for CCK-A (L364,718) or CCK-B (L365,260). The gastrin receptor pharmacology on LoVo cells and the lack of appropriate transcripts suggest that gastrin stimulated growth of these cells by a receptor other than CCK-A or CCK-B type and there likely exists another receptor for gastrin.